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ULTRA RUNNING: WHEN THE MIND WILLS THE BODY

RIDE OR DIE

by Sam Guthrie

Just over a year ago, I was unable to finish a 5k due to an injury I sustained during the summer of 2017. I suspect it was/ is some sort of meniscus tear, but nothing showed on the MRI. So, I was left to my own knowledge-of-self to heal and train. I just took things slow and pulled back when my knee told me to. Some things bothered it, some didn’t. Some days were good, some days weren’t so good. I didn’t know (and I still don’t know) for if my knee will ever be 100%, but I have approached my training in ways that will maximize its longevity.

Last month, Janice informed me that one of our members, Becky, had signed up for The Great Scorpion Trail Run to start training for an upcoming race in the fall, The Barkley Fall Classic. This is a pretty popular race in the trail running community, so I hear. Janice even did it this past year. Janice said she wanted to go and was thinking of running. I saw that there was a 25k and, with little hesitation, I said I wanted to try the 25k. I mean, why would someone who hasn’t run over 5ish miles at any given time in the past year and have a sketchy knee not want to run 15 miles? In true Janice form, she went right along with it. FYI, she hasn’t trained for anything of the sort since the Fall Classic. We decided to go for it, unprepared, and if we failed (although we would never call it a failure), then so be it. We had some other pretty amazing women hop on board, as well!

Fast forward to this past Friday and I had done absolutely nothing to prepare for this race other than book a hotel room. I had never felt more unprepared for any race or competition in my life. I packed Friday afternoon and headed up to Meridian with my kids. We arrived just before 8 p.m. and got some dinner. Afterwards, we checked in to the Microtel and got ready for bed. Janice and her crew were arriving around midnight. Walking downstairs to let Janice in the hotel made for a “first” in my 35 years of life. Apparently the Microtel is the place to be when you want to smoke weed like nobody’s watching. That hallway was overflowing with the lovely aroma of skunk. This night also reminded me of why I DO NOT share the bed with my children and how grateful I am that I don’t have to listen to any loved ones snoring. They know who they are and they know I still love them.

Five a.m. came early, but I felt pretty normal for the lack of sleep. I headed to the race just after six. The temperature was around 40 degrees. If you know me, you know I do not enjoy cold races! One too many arctic like obstacle course races can be to blame for that. I got checked in and settled, still really unaware of what was to come. Usually, by this point on race day, I have been to the honey bucket a few times to cleanse my nerve stricken system. Not this day. I was getting my stuff together until the very last minute. In fact, I think we lined up at the start with about one minute to go.

Then it was go time. Honestly speaking, the only “trail” races I have done have been obstacle course races. Those have never been enjoyable as I have always gone out with the intent to win. I had NO idea how to run this race, and, was it even a race? I don’t know. I think I even told Janice that I didn’t know what I was doing and why couldn’t we just enjoy things. We stayed together for a little while and I’m not sure at what point we separated. Though, I always looked back during the switchbacks to see her familiar face and she was there. Little known fact: although I do enjoy “beating” Janice, I always want her to succeed as well.

About 4-5 miles into the first loop and still having no idea how I was supposed to be running this race, I made a mini goal for myself. This was to not stop running until I finished the first loop, which was 7 miles and some change. Add in quite a few times rolling each ankle, tripping multiple times (but never actually falling and telling myself how amazing my reflexes are) and yelling at myself to get my stuff together, I accomplished my first goal. When I stopped running, the weirdest feeling I have ever felt in my legs started. A feeling that is very hard to explain, but one that I would soon learn from.

IT REALLY IS AS LONG AS IT LOOKS

This mini break is where I didn’t really know how to handle this type of race. I knew I wasn’t going to stop long, but I questioned if I should stop at all. My total “rest” was about 3 minutes, just enough to say hi to my girls and open a snack. As I was opening the food, I saw another female cross the start line, grab a banana and take off. Looking back, this was probably the third place female.

When I started the second loop, she was nowhere in sight. My only plan was to run as I did the first loop because as soon as the running motion stopped, my legs felt like they were on the brink of seizing up. I passed a male shortly into the second loop, but soon realized that he wasn’t letting me leave him. He would become my shadow and motivation for the remainder of the race.

Every hill in that second loop was harder and longer than the first. I would start them running, end up walking a portion of them, and then hurry back to running to prevent my legs from failing me. I became very aware that when I was running, he was running and when I was walking he was walking. It became this thing, in my mind, where I decided that I couldn’t let this man down. He was looking at me to pace him, to keep him going.

He watched me roll my ankles quite a few times and trip over more roots than I could count. He even told me “Great save!” on my most epic trip. That was towards the end of the race and the first time we exchanged words. We didn’t say much, but he thanked me and I thanked him. We had about one mile to go. The feeling that this race was almost over started to overwhelm me. I wish that I could verbalize all of the thoughts that went through my head. Three hours is a long time to think about things without any distractions…other than the occasional root or two hundred.

We turned the corner where we could see the finish line. I’m not sure how far it was, maybe a tenth or two of a mile. The moment I saw the finish and my girls, my legs began to seize up. I tried to “run” and managed to without collapsing, but as soon as I crossed the line, that was it. Tears and the full on tetanus legs. I hobbled to the trainer table where I was tended to. Luckily the table was set up near the finish line and I was able to see Janice cross it. The trainer asked me questions about what I did to prepare for the race and how many of these I had run. “CrossFit” and “this was my first” were my only answers. I’m sure he made an assumption that I wasn’t very smart. He was right to an extent, but I had things to prove to myself and I know my body well enough to know its capabilities.

As things started to settle, I began to realize something completely opposite of what I have always experienced. I kept asking myself why my legs gave up just before the finish. Why not when I tried to step over a log? Why not when I was walking up a muddy hill and could feel the cramps starting? Why not when I caught myself on that epic trip? Why not when I was running down hill, trying to put the brakes on? It didn’t make sense to me. Then I got it.

I have always been of the mindset that the mind will give up long before the body does. That, somehow, our brain will protect us from pushing too hard and going to a place that is unsafe for us. This has been true for me in quite a few CrossFit workouts. Namely those that involve the CrossFit Open, rowing, and thrusters. Saturday, January 5th  2019 taught me otherwise. I learned that the body can and will give up long before the mind, and that the mind can and will push your body much farther than you ever thought possible. My brain (along with the thoughts of the things that mean the most to me) got me through those last 7 or so miles. My body was done the moment I stopped after the first loop. I felt it, I knew it. My brain saw the finish and knew it had accomplished the task at hand. It was a sort of sigh of relief, if you will.

While a 25k may seem minuscule to some, it was not to me. I didn’t train for this. I CrossFit, that’s it. I don’t have miles under my belt. I don’t even have that time under tension. The longest workout I have done recently has been about 30 minutes. So, yes, 15 miles and 3 hours was an eternity to my body. If you saw me just hours after this run, you could see the damage done. Hobbling was the gait of choice, lifting my legs was not done without assistance from my arms, every bend of my knee was met with discomfort and sleep was not easy.

When I started my fitness journey with Janice and Bandit CrossFit in 2013, I was asked why I wanted to pursue CrossFit. This was my reasoning and still is to this day: I believe that the human body is an amazing creation! I wanted and still want to see just what it is capable of. God did not make me or us to live in mediocrity, never reaching or striving to reach our full potential (and not just in the physical sense). I have had an amazing six years full of adventures and it is my goal to have even greater adventures in my years to come!

The post ULTRA RUNNING: WHEN THE MIND WILLS THE BODY appeared first on Bandit CrossFit.

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